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Meconopsis (Blue Poppy)

Blue Poppy, Himalayan Poppy, Himalayan Blue Poppy, Tibetan Poppy


Prized by shade garden enthusiasts, Meconopsis (Blue Poppy) is a member of the poppy family that never fails to stir excitement and desire. Its strikingly beautiful blue poppies have stolen the heart of onlookers for ages.

What is Blue Poppy?

Meconopsis, commonly known as Himalayan poppy or blue poppy, is a fascinating genus of flowering plants in the family Papaveraceae, which includes 23 genera, including the brilliant Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale), Opium Poppies (Papaver somniferum), Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule), California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica), or Flanders Poppies (Papaver rhoeas).

The genus contains about 80 species of annuals, biennials, and evergreen or herbaceous perennials, most of which are native to the alpine regions of the Himalayas in Tibet, China, and India, except Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh Poppy), which hails from Western Europe, including the British Isles.

Habit and Size: The plants typically have a clump-forming growth habit, with a rosette of hairy leaves at the base. From this rosette, tall, erect stems arise, each adorned with one or more flowers. Depending on the species, Meconopsis can grow from 1 to 4 feet (30-120 cm) in height and 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) in spread.

Flowers: Meconopsis is best known for its vivid blue flowers, a rarity among flowering plants. However, flower color can range from blue to purple, red, yellow, and white across different species. The flowers are usually large, bowl-shaped, with crepe-paper-like petals surrounding a bouquet of stamens. They may be borne solitary on a leafless stem or in terminal panicles forming a stout inflorescence on a leafy stem.

Blooming Season: They typically bloom from late spring through July, depending on species and geographic areas.

Hardiness: Their hardiness varies by species, but most can tolerate conditions in USDA zones 5 to 8.

Uses: In gardens, Meconopsis is often used for its striking, jewel-like blooms. They are excellent in mixed borders, cottage gardens, or as part of a woodland garden scheme. Their vibrant colors make them fantastic focal points.

Pollinators: Bees are the main pollinators for Meconopsis, attracted by the vibrant colors and the copious amounts of pollen the flowers provide.

Deer and Rabbit:  They tend to leave these plants alone, possibly due to the hairy leaves and stems.

Lifespan: Some Blue Poppies are long-lived perennials, blooming year after year, while others are short-lived or monocarpic: they set seeds and die after flowering.

Cultivation:  Meconopsis can be challenging to cultivate for some gardeners due to their specific requirements: cool, humid conditions, slightly alkaline to slightly acidic soil, and dappled shade. However, if these conditions can be met, gardeners are rewarded with one of the most unique and breathtaking blooms in the plant kingdom. Some refer to Meconopsis as “the holy grail of plants,” a testament to their elusive charm.

Guide Information

Hardiness 5 - 9
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials
Genus Meconopsis
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 1' - 4'
(30cm - 120cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage
Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’ (Blue Poppy)
Meconopsis ‘Marit’ (Himalayan Poppy)
Meconopsis baileyi (Himalayan Blue Poppy)

Why Should I Grow Blue Poppy?

Growing Blue Poppy, or Meconopsis, can be a challenge, but the rewards are definitely worth the effort. Here are a few reasons why you might consider adding them to your garden:

Unique Beauty: Meconopsis boasts a rare and stunning blue color that is difficult to find in most other flowering plants. The striking, jewel-like blooms stand out in any garden and can be a great conversation starter.

Adds Color: Their vivid blue flowers provide a burst of color in late spring to early summer, a time when many gardens are dominated by green.

Attracts Pollinators: Blue Poppies are known to attract bees, which play a crucial role in pollination. Adding them to your garden can contribute to local ecosystems and promote biodiversity.

Suitable for Certain Locations: Meconopsis thrives in cooler, moister climates, making them a good choice for gardeners in such areas where other plants might struggle.

Versatility: Blue Poppies fit well in various garden styles, from cottage gardens to woodland themes. They can add charm to mixed borders and work well as a focal point in the garden.

The Challenge: For the avid gardener, growing Blue Poppies can be a rewarding challenge. Their reputation for being difficult to cultivate can make the successful blooming of Meconopsis even more satisfying. However, some Himalayan Poppy species are easier to grow than most. Among those relatively easy to grow are Meconopsis betonicifolia, Meconopsis cambrica, Meconopsis grandis, Meconopsis napaulensis, Meconopsis paniculata, Meconopsis quintuplinervia and Meconopsis regia.

Meconopsis betonicifolia (Blue Poppy)
Meconopsis grandis (Tibetan Poppy)
Papaver cambricum (Welsh Poppy)

Garden Design with Blue Poppy

Designing a garden with Blue Poppies, requires careful consideration of their specific growing requirements and the unique beauty they offer. Here are some ideas:

Woodland Garden: Meconopsis thrive in dappled shade and cool, moist conditions, much like in their native Himalayan woodlands. Use them in a woodland garden design, paired with other shade-loving plants such as hostas, ferns, and astilbes.

Cottage Garden: The striking blooms of Meconopsis can add a touch of exotic charm to a traditional cottage garden. Plant them among other colorful perennials, annuals, and shrubs for a vibrant, mixed border.

Rock Garden: Some species of Meconopsis, especially the smaller alpine types, can be used in rock gardens. Ensure the soil is rich and well-draining, and that the plants are shaded from the harshest midday sun.

Water Feature or Pond Edges: Given their love for moist conditions, Meconopsis can be planted near water features or at the edges of ponds. They can provide a burst of color in these typically green-dominated areas.

Showpiece Planting: Given the eye-catching color and unique appeal of Blue Poppies, consider planting them as a focal point in your garden. A cluster of these flowers in bloom can draw the eye and invite closer inspection.

Companion Planting: Pair Meconopsis with other plants that appreciate similar conditions. Ferns, bleeding hearts (Dicentra), rhododendrons, azaleas, and primulas can all make good companions.

Remember, Meconopsis requires cool, moist conditions, rich, well-drained soil, and dappled shade. They can be a bit challenging to grow, but if their needs are met, these plants can make a breathtaking addition to your garden. Always source your plants responsibly, as wild populations are under pressure due to over-collection and habitat destruction.

Companion Plants

Companion plants for Blue Poppies should ideally thrive in similar conditions – cool, humid climates, and dappled shade. Here are some suggestions:

Ferns: Ferns thrive in cool, shady locations and can provide an excellent backdrop to highlight the striking blooms of Meconopsis.

Astilbe: With their feathery plumes, astilbes can provide a contrasting texture to the bold, smooth petals of Meconopsis. They also enjoy similar growing conditions.

Hostas: Hostas are shade-loving plants with beautiful foliage that can provide a nice contrast to the bright flowers of Meconopsis.

Rhododendrons and Azaleas: These shrubs prefer similar growing conditions as Meconopsis and their vibrant flowers can complement the blue blooms.

Primulas: Primulas thrive in moist, shady conditions and offer a variety of colors that can pair well with the blue of Meconopsis.

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart): The unique, heart-shaped flowers of Dicentra and its shade-loving nature make it a good companion for Meconopsis.

Hydrangeas: Certain types of Hydrangeas, particularly those that prefer shade, can complement the Meconopsis well.

Pulmonaria (Lungwort): With their variegated foliage and flowers that can be blue, pink, or white, pulmonarias can provide a beautiful contrast.

Hellebores: These early spring bloomers enjoy similar conditions and can provide early interest before the Meconopsis start blooming.

Corydalis: Another woodland plant, Corydalis comes in a variety of colors and enjoys similar conditions as Meconopsis.

Remember, the success of these companion plants will depend on them having similar cultural requirements to Meconopsis. Ensuring they have a suitable environment with ample moisture, well-drained soil, and dappled shade is essential.

Companion Plant for Blue Poppies

Primula (Primrose)
Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
Azalea and Rhododendron
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Hydrangea macrophylla (Bigleaf Hydrangea)
Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Helleborus (Hellebore)
Athyrium (Lady Fern)

When to Plant Blue Poppy

  • The best time to plant your Blue Poppy in the garden is in the spring. This will give the plant time to get well established before winter.
  • Blue Poppy can also be planted in the fall but must be planted early enough so the plant can grow strong before going dormant.

Where to Plant Blue Poppy


  • Most Poppies perform well in USDA Zones 5-8, depending on the species. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.
  • They thrive in areas with cool damp summers and do not respond well to high summer heat and humidity.


  • These Poppies require part shade. They need a site with a dappled shade that is sheltered from cold, dry winds.
  • In their native habitat, Himalayan Poppies grow in woodlands where they receive dappled light. They will scorch or die if exposed to too much intense sunlight.

Soil and Drainage

  • Himalayan Poppies require humus-rich, neutral to slightly acidic, moist but well-drained soils. Loamy soils work best.
  • Make sure the soil has plenty of organic matter.
  • Make sure the soil is fast-draining as Himalayan Poppies do not tolerate waterlogged soils.
  • If your soil is heavy and likely to become waterlogged in the winter, add plenty of coarse sand or grit, allowing it to drain freely.
  • In winter, in their natural habitat, Himalayan Poppies are dormant, under several feet of snow which keeps them fairly dry. It is important to replicate such conditions in the garden. This can be achieved by planting your Himalayan Poppies on a slightly raised small mound, which can be created when grit, compost, manure, etc. are added when preparing the soil. The mound will allow the water to drain away freely.
  • The acidity of the soil will impact the color of your poppies: the enchanting pure blues are obtained best on acid rather than alkaline soils. The more alkaline the soil, the more pink or purple the color will be.

How to Plant Blue Poppy

  • Soil preparation is critical. Before planting, the area should be deeply dug, and plenty of humus (compost or well-rotted manure) dug into the soil.
  • Spread 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) of compost or rotted manure and 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) of fine bark mulch and dig into the soil to a depth of 18 inches (45 cm). Work slow-release fertilizer or organic fertilizer into the top 3-6 inches (7-15 cm).
  • Gently loosen the roots of the poppy and place at the same depth the plants were in the pots.
  • Ensure adequate space: some species produce huge evergreen rosettes, which can reach 3 feet (90 cm) in width.
  • Water well around the plant after planting.
Meconopsis ‘Jimmy Bayne’ (Blue Poppy)
Meconopsis baileyi var. alba (Himalayan White Poppy)
Meconopsis napaulensis (Satin Poppy)

How to Care for Blue Poppies

Water and Moisture

  • Water regularly during the summer. Water at the roots is essential.
  • Do not allow the soil to dry out during the growing season.


  • Himalayan Poppies are heavy feeders. In the wild, they grow in very nutrient-rich soils.
  • They will use as much humus and manure as can be provided.
  • They will also benefit from fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer in spring.
  • They must be fed well with manure or a general-purpose fertilizer each year and more regularly if the soil is very poor.


  • Mulch around plants with a 2 in. layer (5 cm) of garden compost or well-rotted manure.
  • This can be done whenever plants are planted out, in summer (to increase humidity around the plant and help with water retention in the soil), or in the fall.
  • Ensure the crown is left un-mulched, as this can cause rot to set in.


  • Sometimes Himalayan Poppies will die after flowering.  To help your plants be perennial and survive longer, remove all flower buds before they flower during the first year of growth.
  • This will enable your blue poppies to focus on establishing strong roots and developing their foliage.
  • Cutting them down to the ground in late fall is also a good practice.


Himalayan Poppies can either be propagated by division or raised from seed.

Propagation by division

  • Many of the infertile blue poppies can only be propagated through division, and this can sometimes be a quicker process than growing Meconopsis plants by seed.
  • Division is best done in early spring at the first signs of growth or in late summer.
  • Lift your Himalayan Poppy clump with a garden fork. Cut back the foliage to a few inches if this is done in late summer.
  • Divide by hand as the shoots are delicate. Do not use a spade.
  • Small clumps (with one or two rooted shoots) may take a couple of years to flower. Larger clumps will flower in their first season.
  • These new plants must be watered well once they have been replanted.

Propagation from seed

  • Since many Himalayan Poppies are monocarpic or short-lived, it is important to gather and store seed to grow new plants.
  • Seed should be harvested when ripe, when valves at the top of a capsule open.
  • Some gardeners believe sowing all Meconopsis seed fresh after harvest has the greatest success in germination.
  • Another method is to sow Meconopsis seed from December to February so that the seeds experience a period of cold (stratification). It allows a full growing season for the young plants to develop, but it is important to store the seed over winter.
  • Cleaned, dry seed can be kept inside within a waterproof bag or container and stored in a fridge (about 39ºF  or 4ºC).
  • A suitable sowing medium for seed is two parts multipurpose peat-free compost to one part perlite, passed through a sieve. The medium needs to have a high level of air porosity within it.
  • Himalayan Poppy seed requires light to germinate so either surface sow and cover with a thin layer of vermiculite (to anchor seeds and prevent drying out) or top off the pot with damp perlite and sow the seed into this.
  • Make sure the seed never dries out or gets too wet.
  • Once plants have germinated, keep the pots in a shady place, ensuring the soil never dries out but is not sodden.
  • As pot-grown seedlings develop 2 or 3 leaves, they should be pricked off into containers of a similar medium to that detailed above.
  • Transplanted seedlings should be fed with a weak liquid feed every 2 weeks during the growing season.
  • Pot on regularly as the seedlings develop so that they do not become pot-bound.
  • When the plants are large enough, plant them in the garden in the fall or the following spring.

Pest and Diseases

  • Himalayan Poppies do not have serious pest or disease issues.
  • Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, which can attack the young soft growth.
  • Irregular watering, particularly if the plants are left damp in too humid an environment, may cause downy mildew. Make sure there is good air circulation around the plants.
  • Plants dry at the roots or in too bright light are prone to scorching of the leaves.
  • Damping off is a common problem when seed is sown too thickly. Sow thinly and keep the pots in a well-ventilated situation.
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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 5 - 9
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials
Genus Meconopsis
Exposure Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid)
Height 1' - 4'
(30cm - 120cm)
Spread 1' - 2'
(30cm - 60cm)
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Landscaping Ideas Beds And Borders
Garden Styles Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage
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